Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Boswellians' Top 5 Books of 2022 - Part Six

It is the last post of our top 5 roundups. Wow! We've recapped a lot of books so far. Here are a handful more, from Ogi and Oli, giving us a strong finish.

Ogi almost always has a great go-to rec for fantasy fans - both those just starting to get into the whole swords and dragons thing and readers who have long been living in other worlds on the page. In his top 5 this year, he branches out with some interesting selections.

#1 The Emperors of Byzantium by Kevin Lygo. Here's what Ogi says: "My favorite book of 2022 wasn't a fantasy book? Shocking. This book catalogs every single Emperor of the Byzantine Empire from beginning to end, giving us the general view of their reign. I found myself thinking "Eh, one more Emperor and then bedtime" all the way to 3am! Quick, snappy, and visually appealing, this book reads at a break neck pace. What other history books can say that? "

#2 The Creative Gene: How books, movies, and music inspired the creator of Death Stranding and Metal Gear Solid by Hideo Kojima, translated by Nathan Collins. Ogi's notes: "I really like learning about the art that inspired the people who inspire me. Hideo Kojima, arguably one of the most important designers in the video game space, writes about some of his favorite works of art and gives us some insight into his life. Read it if you like listening to people talk about the things they love."

#3 Adventurer: The Life and Times of Giacomo Casanova by Leo Damrosch. Here are Ogi's words on the book: "I've fallen down the Giacomo Casanova Wikipedia hole too many times to count. The nonsense this man got up to was baffling, even escaping the Doge's prison at one point. Leo Damrosch's writing gives this book the feeling of a slow burn television drama. I absolutely love it!"

#4 The First Binding by RR Virdi. And Ogi sums it up like this: "The Kingkiller Chroniclers meets the Silk Road! A stunning tale of amazing feats imbued with South Asian mythology. Styled in a similar sense, any fans of The Name of the Wind are sure to love this book, too!"

With his last pick, Ogi goes for an older book - we at Boswell believe in backlist, so we let each bookseller pick one older book for their top five, if they so wish.

#5 The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Ogi writes: "Since reading this book in the summer of 2021, I have thought about it every single day since. Forget being one of my favorite books, this is one of my favorite pieces of entertainment! It's books like this that remind me why I'm so in love with reading; it's books like this that inspire me to write. If you're even moderately interested in the fantasy or heist genres, you won't be able to put this book down!"

And now we go to Oli Schmitz for their top 5 picks of the year, and we get a good bit of book magic.

#1 Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell. Maxwell's book makes its second appearance on the top 5 blogs. Oli says: "Set in the same universe as Winter's Orbit, but with an entirely standalone story and new cast of characters, Ocean's Echo is an adventure in space, minds, and galactic politics that truly stands out. As a fan of Maxwell's previous book, I love that Ocean's Echo is another character-forward space opera, with a story that illustrates very real mental health and relational issues and centers themes of building trust and selfhood. Surit is an architect who can "write" commands into the minds of others; Tennal is a powerful "reader" who can pick up on thoughts and intentions. When the military tries to force Surit to sync with Tennal, they realize that neither has signed up for this, but they must work together to protect their autonomy. The narrative is a split point-of-view between these two characters, and I loved their distinct voices and the dynamic they have together. You can trust Maxwell to carry you safely through to the end, even as the characters navigate a charged military-political landscape and dangerous, mind-bending bits of chaotic space. I found myself rooting for the characters, hooked even more by every twist, and all-around captivated by the story."

#2 The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. Oli writes: "Under a plot of reclaiming what has been taken - from family to power and an entire kingdom - this epic, Sapphic fantasy truly has it all. Secret pasts! Conflicting motives! A vengeful princess imprisoned in exile, a ruined temple that once housed ancient, magical waters, a priestess, one of only a few survivors of the temple's destruction, hiding in plain sight, and oh so much more! Alongside the exciting world and complicated characters, this first installment in The Burning Kingdoms trilogy has a story that confronts imperialism, religion, resistance, morality, and reclaiming what has been taken - whether that be one's power, past, family, or an entire kingdom. (And did I mention the queer romance?) One of the best books I've read this year, and definitely a series worth starting."

As maybe you've noticed, that last one is Oli's "earlier than 2022" pick of the year. We stand by it still!

#3 The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings. Oli's notes: "In this strange, lovely, and beautifully told novel, a bi and biracial woman confronts difficult choices and a complicated family history. Giddings seamlessly weaves social commentary into the narrative as she contends with the history of persecution for witchcraft - with power and otherness - and brings it into a contemporary speculative-fictional world. The Upper Midwest setting is part of an America that mirrors our own in its patterns of oppression. The existence of witches and the fictional state's regulation of women for fear of witchcraft offer a fascinating way to examine how fear drives marginalization in our reality. A novel of learning to exist in (and apart from) the world in which you find yourself."

#4 Her Majesty's Royal Coven by Juno Dawson. Oli writes: "Brilliant, timely, magical, thoughtful, and fun: Her Majesty's Royal Coven kicks off a new urban fantasy series that you won't want to miss. Book 1 follows a once tight-knit childhood friend group of young witches whose adult lives have been shaped by the Coven establishment and a recent magical war, and whose different paths and pasts have complicated their relationships to each other in adulthood. When one sees an ideological threat to the Coven and all magic where another sees a teenager in need of support, a fight for survival and inclusion ensues, forcing the characters to confront what's worth taking a stand on. HMRC is full of magic, chosen family, and fierce, protective love. I adored so many of the characters; split-perspective between these different witches brought so much to the story, especially to the ending - what a twist! This book is for anyone who's had someone they admire go too far over the wrong things, for those who understand otherness, and for those who want moments of coziness and friendship alongside a story of demonic entities and awesome witches."

#5 Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes by Travis Baldree. Here's what Oli says: "Legends and Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes is the perfect comfort read, with a story as sweet as Thimble's cinnamon rolls, as warm as a fresh cup of coffee, with a subtle dash of queer romance. In a Dungeons and Dragons-type world, Viv the battle-weary orc hangs up her sword for good, intending to settle down and open a coffee shop. What follows is a cozy adventure about creating a home and building a new life, one of found family and formed community. Rarely do I find myself exclaiming aloud while reading, but I couldn't contain an "aww" here and there - and some scenes were so cute that I nearly cried. I want to join the regulars at Viv's coffee shop, with its promise of coffee, conversation, and the sense of things falling into place. This book is so cozy!"

What a year. What a bunch of great books. Thanks for reading the top 5 blogs. We hope you found some books to read that you'll love as much as we've loved them. And until next time, read on.

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